Direct marketing bodies will fight a rearguard action over new Electoral Roll marketing opt-out proposals.
Topic: Direct Marketing
Proposed New Law: Representation of the People (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2002.
Over the years the direct marketing industry has made consistent use of the biggest data file in the UK, namely the Electoral Roll. Research indicates that marketers use the 45m strong list either to check their mailing lists are up to date or for names and addresses which will be targets for future mailings.
Although figures indicate that only around 5% of marketers actually use the Roll for data mining, the practice has caused controversy, particularly following the arrival of new data protection legislation and the Human Rights Act. This led to the decision in the case of Brian Robertson v Wakefield District Council as previously reported on marketinglaw, which led to the Court pronouncing the current Representation of the People Act in conflict with human rights and data protection legislation. Since then, direct marketers have effectively been banned from accessing the Electoral Roll until new Representation of the People legislation came on stream and the position was clarified. Some local authorities have taken positive action in the meantime. Renfrewshire Council for instance has opted for an opt-in mechanism by which only the data on the Roll relating to those who have opted in to use of their personal details for marketing can be used for that purpose. Now, the proposed new Representation of the People Regulations has been published.
What will change:
Direct marketers will continue to be denied full access to the electoral roll as they have been since the Robertson case. What they will be able to access, however, is the Electoral Roll minus those who have ticked an "opt out box" when filling out annually delivered electoral canvassing forms. The direct marketing industry is limbering up to lobby for full access to all 45 million names on the Roll, although the Information Commission seriously questions the usefulness of the Roll as an aide to complying with the obligation under the Data Protection Act to keep lists up to date. This is because the Roll almost by definition quickly becomes out of date.
So far as the "opt out" option is concerned, marketers will press for more say in how this is presented on the canvass form. The current concern is that the position is so negatively painted so far as the marketing function is concerned that individuals are almost bound to "tick the box". In the proposed canvassing form (which forms part of the Regulations) the two versions of the Register are explained. The full register is mentioned first, then the "edited register". This section states "The edited register leaves out the names and addresses of people who have asked for them to be excluded from that version of the Register. The edited Register can be bought by anyone who asks for a copy and they may use it for any purpose.”
The Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions is keen to have the Regulations in force by Autumn 2002.
What happens next:
Responses to the current proposals are requested by 13 June 2002.